The Cartel that Kills Freedom

As Arizonans and Americans start to tense over the most prolonged elevation of gas prices in recent memory, few pundits have analyzed the effect of OPEC upon this formula. In an election year each political circle looks to find blame in the other without addressing the primary cause – the blind engagement of OPEC by the West. In most circles it is a forgone conclusion, regardless of party, that the stability of OPEC is somehow in American interests. Yet, the cooperation of American and western governments in facilitating a power structure of OPEC which allows them to artificially and externally set oil prices rather than have prices be a natural by-product of a global economy is counterintuitive to every principle of free markets. Jeff Taylor from Cato made this very point exceedingly clear in his column here. Our international economic policy needs to catch up with our forward military foreign policy in Iraq. Some, excluding myself, understandably believed that support of OPEC may have been necessary during the Cold War as we fought a greater global enemy in the Soviets. However, now in the 21st century, as we move to dismantle terror networks and the nations that create them, the deconstruction of the international facilitation of cartels like OPEC will be a major factor in the destabilization of despotic Arab autocracies and monarchies. The disappearance of OPEC will remove the artificial setting of prices upon a free market for oil. With an unfettered free market for oil the cartel becomes impotent. Their oil prices and thus our gas prices drop. Our economy flourishes while their regimes go bankrupt, disappear and are replaced by republics modeled after a free Iraq – but this time without a single occupation. Many have repeatedly stated that the way to lasting freedom in the Middle East will be only through the infusion of freer markets. How about starting with their oil sales? This column originally appeared online at the Arizona Republic at this link.

Answering a critic

An interesting phenomenon was expressed Wednesday on a local website of a small and solitary Muslim community newspaper here in the Valley. Marwan Ahmad, its publisher, chose to take issue on the web with my “Plugged In” commentary way back from March 1, 2004 on the laughable recent Saudi ‘slip-up’ concerning their visa requirements. Mr. Ahmad exploited his discussion to not only discuss his soft-pedaled defense of the Saudi tribal monarchal government but also to personally indict me as somehow always being “negative about the Muslim community.” It is an interesting peek into the current state of mind between Muslim-Muslim interaction right here in the Valley. Progressive moderate American Muslims are running up against this very internal struggle in any attempt to constructively engage certain spokespeople within our own Muslim community. Herein from Mr. Ahmad you will see a diversion. Rather than simply address the issue of Saudi pseudo-reform versus real reform, he chooses to address his fabricated spin of my supposed “bias” and my so-called negativism. By personalizing the discussion he deflects the readers away from the politics of reform in Saudi Arabia and the greater Muslim community, which he perversely thinks are somehow benefited by discussing platitudes of positive and false change. I, for one, believe the greater the wall of intellectual separation between the Islam I know and practice and the Muslims of the Saudi Arabian government, the better served are the Muslims of the Valley and America. Demonstrating that a vocal group and growing movement of activist American Muslims believes that this so-called “Islamic” state is far from Islamic in its practices may be the best thing for the image of Muslims in America. Save our holiest mosque, our Hajj, and our faith’s blessed founding history which took place on the Arabian peninsula, I cannot find any reason as a Muslim that criticism, no matter how frequent, of the Saudi Arabian state and its oppressive hypocrisy would reflect poorly upon American Muslims. With the central Islamic significance of the Arabian peninsula I would say we have even a greater obligation to facilitate a genuine and expeditious reform in Saudi Arabia. Islam teaches Muslims to work first and foremost toward their own self-improvement, renewal, and adherence to principles of faith before ever weighing in on non-Muslim policies. Yet, Mr. Ahmad dismisses this and sets aside the fact that hundreds of thousands of Muslim inhabitants have suffered and died at the hands of Muslim despots still in power today while his paper offers them no effective criticism or convincing calls for democracy. Mr. Ahmad would have me forget Saudi, Syrian, Iraqi, Pakistani, Indian, Libyan, Iranian, Sudanese and former Iraqi oppression to name a few and prove my supposed objectivity by whitewashing the Saudis and focusing on non-Muslims. As an introspective Muslim what other ‘territorial’ conflicts could ever be more proportionally important than the conflict in Muslim nation-states which are home to more than 1 billion Muslims who continue to live in oppression as dictators parasitically foster fundamentalist radicals while the moderates become the spoils or escape to lands of freedom like America? It is basic political common sense that nothing is more negative to the domestic and international credibility of Muslims than the existence of nations of Muslims and their elected leaders who oppress, murder, enslave, and despise their community. Until papers like Mr. Ahmad’s here in the Valley repeatedly cry for and relentlessly demand reform in so-called Muslim lands, calls against the oppression of Muslims by non-Muslims will be viewed as vacuous. American Muslims have a duty to repeatedly deconstruct the legitimacy of the Islamic religious authority of nations which claims to be Muslim and perverse the faith. As the war on terror steps up and Americans fear another incident, it becomes even more essential to demonstrate and lead an unequivocal separation between Islamo-fascism and American Muslim thought. Mr. Ahmad can choose to vilify me as negative. He can choose to blame the west for Muslim nation ills as he writes columns adorned with the Saudi flag rather than an American flag. Or he can facilitate a forward movement to stand effectively for reform in Saudi Arabia. A significant part of the terrorist threat upon our nation is a result of decades of Saudi facilitation of Islamist hate and appeasement of fanaticism and terrorism. The Saudis cowardly shipped Bin Laden to Afghanistan as he declared war on America. I can find nothing positive in the fact that 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists were Saudi nationals. Those Muslims and non-Muslims still in jail in Saudi prisons or those who have died fighting for freedom from Saudi oppression demand a genuine reform before acknowledging change. The treatment of women in Saudi alone is an abomination to every self-respecting Muslim in the world. Until the Saud family starts down the road of handing back the land and oil rightfully owned by the Saudi people back to them with Islamic property rights and justice, I cannot applaud their progress. Finding the positive in their embarrassing removal of an un-Islamic offensive visa restriction so that whitewashing propagandists can pretend all is better now is insulting. My comments are in no way negative toward the religion of Islam or its followers but rather toward Muslim oppressors, pure and simple. These are words of love of my faith and my co-religionists who seek the same freedom, equality, liberty, and justice as expressed for all citizens in the U.S. Constitution and revealed to Muslims in the Koran. It is far easier for Mr. Ahmad to conjure up images of my negativity and undermine my effectiveness within the Muslim community than to speak toward the issue of real reform. It is far easier to try and marginalize my discussion rather than applaud my pro-Islamic liberty pro-Muslim freedom stances which in fact if he would open his eyes provide Muslims with far more credibility than his platitudes ever will. I will not hold my breath waiting for the column by Mr. Ahmad on his website or in his paper decrying Al Qaeda and their ilk and the cancer they are within the international Muslim community and his plan for their extermination. He would rather remain a bystander in the war on terror despite its impact upon the Muslim community. I have yet to read a column from him about his own sense of personal responsibility as a vocal Muslim in speaking out for the eradication of terrorist networks and their leadership. How about a column on Saddam’s or Assad’s Baath Republics of fear? A self described Muslim Voice, should care about freedom and liberty first rather than appeasing and defending dictatorships which oppress Muslims. A self described Muslim Voice should acknowledge and applaud the courage of a few lone Valley Muslim voices of freedom here and abroad rather than indicting them for bias. This involves internal reflection, acknowledgement, and an acceptance of self-responsibility. Such is the challenge. For in a binary world, the distasteful alternative to hating others is to hate oneself. But, then again, at its core Islam teaches us to hate neither and to love God and his creations. The Islamic faith demands this internal reflection first before all else. This column originally appeared at the Arizona Republic at this link.

Fear claims victory in Spain

What does yesterday’s election loss of Spain’s conservative Popular party portend for the war on terror? While evidence is pointing more toward al-Qaida, one can be certain that whoever perpetrated the attacks wanted to instill fear in the Spanish electorate as they went to the polling booth. Some may have been emboldened to keep Prime Minister Aznar and his party so that they may continue their forward anti-terror policies. However a majority chose to usher in the socialists despite them being philosophically poorly positioned to convincingly fight terror. The terrorists who struck in Spain, most likely al-Qaida or their Islamist ilk, through the heinous killing of innocent non-combatants sought a political change through fear and intimidation. A day after the elections in Spain, they appear to have achieved their goal. The resolute Anzar is leaving and the softer socialists are entering. The test now remains to see whether the new Spanish government will respond with the sheepish appeasement policy that the terrorists expected and which France, Germany and other European nations enacted while America and Britain led the forward response against Islamist terror. The attacks in Baghdad, Istanbul, and now Madrid are proof that America and its supporters in the war on terror have the terrorists in their crosshairs while they run for their lives in attempting to fracture the coalition and stimulate appeasement. Any other interpretation ignores the writing on the wall. The sad paradox is that terrorists will exploit our democratic processes to stimulate the change that suits their survival, banking upon the electorate’s fear translating into short-sighted appeasement at the election booth. Spain is living proof. We can only hope that the American electorate readying for November comes away today learning from Madrid with an emboldened resolve and not with a fearful tilt toward appeasement. While terror instills fear in the community it targets, it conversely clarifies the correctness of the war on terror. Senator Kerry should finally wake up his campaign with respect to his discussion on the war on terror and make it clear to the terrorists that his resolve in the war from Iraq to America will not waiver from that of President Bush. Anything short of that should give us concern. That which makes a clear divide between a softer Kerry administration of 2005 and a more resolute second-term Bush administration that promises to finish the war against al-Qaida, may in fact pose a palpable security risk for the American citizenry into the fall of 2004. The terrorists rather need to get the clear message that the American population will not waiver in the war on terror regardless of who wins in November. This column originally appeared at the Arizona Republic online at this link.

Envisioning Peace – Signs of the Dove

This week in a border region of Israel and Jordan, Gen. Tommy Franks and Jack Kemp, joined American business leaders in breaking ground on a joint Jordanian and Israeli center called “Bridging the Rift.” Scientists from each country, Muslim and Jewish, Arab and Israeli, will work together, sharing common principles of creativity, freedom, democracy, capitalism and free-trade. The road to peace in the Middle East, whether through Damascus or Jerusalem, comes when their mutually great histories of intellectual renaissance are revisited with joint investments and new beginnings. This column originally appeared at this link at the Arizona Republic.

Al-Qaida Earmarks

The horrific bombings in Madrid Spain yesterday killed more than 190 people and injured more than 1,200. This was obviously an al-Qaida operation with 10 simultaneous explosions within Madrid’s transportation system in a diverse country that was part of the coalition in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Al-Qaida and their ilk are frenetically pushing all available buttons of barbarism as Iraq heads toward a Constitutional government and their cells from America to Europe to Iraq are being slowly uncovered or neutralized. Let not one Spanish life lost on March 11 be forgotten. Let it remind us and keep us forever vigilant of the fact that we are at war. We need continued firm leadership at home and abroad. Attacks in Baghdad, Karbala and Madrid that were like those before in Bali, Istanbul, and Riyadh make it imminently clear that our troops abroad and our citizens at home have our work cut out for us as we fight terror in all its manifestations. Al-Qaida’s increasing agitation of late must mean that the noise around their foxholes is increasing. Al-Qaida’s extermination can only come with the resolve to persist in Iraq with our coalition until a capitalistic democracy is in place and maintained safe. If Iraq was so irrelevant in the war on terror, how is it that a network of suicide bombers sprouted in Iraq? If Iraq was so irrelevant why Spain, now, near their elections, when their Prime Minister showed great leadership in his support of the coalition in Operation Iraqi Freedom? The war on terror has many fronts and on March 12, 2004 it is more clear than ever that leadership, consistency, and resolve like that of President Bush is essential. On every possible front, the time is also now more than ever for moderate Muslims to put into high gear a national and global effort to find and expose those who may be part of an anti-American or anti-western terror network whether in America, Europe, Iraq or beyond. This column originally appeared at this link at the Arizona Republic.

There’s no clash of civilizations -Muslim vs. Muslim.

If you think the war on terror is about Islam against the West, pay attention to Iraq. Something strange and grave is afoot there. Simultaneous attacks. An al-Qaida signature. Terrorists bringing homicidal carnage on Shiite Muslim shrines and pilgrims, wantonly killing 140-plus and injuring 400 on their holy day of Ashoura. These bombings, nine in Karbala and four in Baghdad, brought a three-day delay in the signing of the constitution by the Governing Council. Yet, in a most unusual declaration, al-Qaida denied involvement. U.S. General John Abizaid told reporters he believes “there is no doubt” that Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi along with al-Qaida was behind the suicide bombings. However, it seems that this heinous frontline violence of Muslim against Muslim is infinitely revealing of the essence of the war on terror in Iraq and beyond. Set aside the rhetoric and it is obvious to all that eventually coalition forces will leave an Iraqi government with an independent country with a free process. The character of this process will shape many Iraqi and future Middle Eastern generations. Al-Qaida and Islamist paranoid delusions of the negative impact of remote Western culture and secularism upon their nihilistic dogma will pale in comparison to the obliterating effect upon Islamism of a constitutional secular democracy of a majority of tolerant Muslims. Jim Hoagland, of The Washington Post got it right. モThe latest waves of holy murders should shake from their fantasies the Islamic political leaders and religious authorities who deny that a war for control of Islam is raging around them. The war will claim many more lives if Muslim society does not face up to the cancerous growth feeding on Islam and lead — not join, but lead — the fight against that cancer.ヤ As the signatories grow ever closer to penning their name in the Iraqi Constitution, al-Qaida, Ansar Al Islam, the Army for the Helpers of Sunnah, and scores of other radicals are the only ones who benefit from derailing the process and creating carnage in its wake. For moderate Muslims to ignore the radicals, sit idly by, and not aggressively seek them out whether in Iraq or elsewhere is to allow them to metastasize. An internal religious civil war between moderate and radical Muslims has now become a reality. It is a defining moment in the real reform of the Muslim expression. It is a war of might and of words with fronts and battle lines clear. The truth is that many a great nation of reformers and those escaping religious persecution have been built on a foundation of civil war leaving behind the intolerant, the reactionary, and the theologically dogmatic for the spiritually liberated. To say that those who utilize homicide bombing and asynchronous warfare would respond to anything but military might is to misunderstand their motivation, their ignorance, and their self-righteousness. God bless the brave American liberators and the brave Muslim freedom pioneers who are standing tall and firm against theocracy, intolerance, and oppression in Iraq and beyond. While some Muslim representatives this week around the world peacefully condemned the bombings and called for unity and tolerance, let us hope that the unity is a firm and unyielding unity of moderate Muslims directed against the scourge of the radicals in a struggle for the soul of Islam and individual freedom of expression. This column originally appeared at the Arizona Republic at this link.

Jews Need not Apply – Going Backwards

It was only two months ago that the Saudis were funding radio advertisements throughout the United States on our need as Americans to be patient as they move toward reform and tolerance. Now, this next month, in a program which slipped through their “western laundering police,” they initiated a program to improve tourism into their beloved autocratic state with the caveat that “Jews and Israelis need not apply for visas.” In fact, their website for tourism had the following exclusions for visa applicants: ユ An Israeli passport holder or a passport that has an Israeli arrival/departure stamp. ユ Those who don’t abide by the Saudi traditions concerning appearance and behaviors. Those under the influence of alcohol will not be permitted into the Kingdom. ユ There are certain regulations for pilgrims and you should contact the consulate for more information. ユ Jewish people. And if that insult to principles of Islamic tolerance and hospitality is not enough, when the world took notice of their anti-Jewish travel policies they quickly changed the Saudi tourism website and pretended they were a tolerant tourist trap. While we continue to listen not to the Saudi monarchs who have self-interest in portraying tolerance and change, but to the Imams in Saudi Arabia (i.e. the war cry from Mecca during Hajj Jan. 31, 2003) who continue to preach hatred, reform will need to be genuine and based upon Islam’s sacred tradition of interfaith equality and brotherhood with Christians, Jews, and all humanity. The Saudi’s slipup over visas in their push for tourism is a sign of a far deeper rooted problem in intolerance, racism, and paranoia that will need real Islamic reform from the grass roots of the Saudi people – not from the government or from the pulpits. Here is a picture of what the Saudis deleted off their website. The updated entry had the offensive entries removed. This column originally appeared at the Arizona Republic at this link.